ABOVE THE LAW

SECRET DEALS, POLITICAL FIXES AND OTHER MISADVENTURES OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

America's Justice Department overkilled. Having previously taken aim at the IRS (A Law Unto Itself, 1989, etc.), investigative reporter Burnham turns his guns on the elusive, unaccountable, deeply political institution comprised of some of the nation's most potent players, including the attorney general, the FBI, the DEA, the INS, the Antitrust Division, and 93 US attorneys. According to the author, the Justice Department has functioned primarily to advance the president's political agenda and to conduct covert operations. Headed by the attorney general (frequently the president's crony), the department busies itself with PR makework (such as Nixon's ``big, bad, dumb'' war on drugs) while failing to prosecute environmental criminals and corporations that endanger health and safety. Burnham convincingly argues that the sleazy symbiosis between the president and the Justice Department has not been limited to ``ethically challenged'' administrations: Along with the predictable tales of Nixon's anti- antitrust policy, he explores LBJ's use of the FBI to tail Martin Luther King, Carter's firing a federal prosecutor investigating a Democratic congressman, and Robert Kennedy's squelching an investigation of the Mafia's hold on Philadelphia's federal judges. He assembles impressive-looking charts to illustrate how the FBI distorts crime statistics and how federal prosecutors are misallocated across the nation. But too often the author concedes that he has found no smoking guns, inviting the reader to share his ``suspicions'' about Justice Department injustice. He blasts all attorneys general of recent memory except Edward Levi, neglecting to consider the contributions of such officeholders as Nicholas Katzenbach, Elliot Richardson, and Janet Reno. The book's strident tone, overbroad scope, and strenuous avoidance of gray areas also detract from the analysis. Sprawling, unsubtle, given to rhetorical excess—like the Justice Department itself. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80699-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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